New features in Linux Mint 17.3 MATE
Linux Mint 17.3 is a long term support release which will be supported until 2019. It comes with updated software and brings refinements and many new features to make your desktop experience more comfortable to use.
The application menu looks much better, thanks to the addition of a frame, borders and shadows.
A bit of padding was also added throughout its different sections.
Screen-tearing and window managers
The "Desktop Settings" tool now supports more window and compositing managers. Other than the traditional Marco, Metacity and Xfwm4 window managers, you’ll find the following options:
- Openbox: A very fast and very light window manager.
- Compiz: One of the most visually impressive window manager available for Linux.
- Compton: A compositing manager which can be used in complement of Marco, Metacity, Xfwm4 or Openbox.
A new help section was added to explain various concepts around window managers and compositing.
Desktop Settings: A new help section, more compatible window managers, better compiz support, and compton integration to solve screen-tearing issues.
Switching window-managers takes effect immediately so you no longer have to log out.
Compton is now installed by default and configured to prevent screen-tearing. If you see a horizontal line when watching videos or playing games, simply switch to it and these issues should be gone.
As for Compiz, it was already integrated in Linux Mint 17.2, but it got even better:
- Wobbly windows are activated by default (the reason Compiz was added was for the "wow" factor, so it may as well use with the most noticeable plugin of them all).
- Compiz profiles were moved to dconf (this solves an issue where changes to Compiz settings weren’t recored on your very first session).
- Compiz profiles can be reset from the "Desktop Settings" tool. If you made a mistake or broke your Compiz configuration, there was no way of fixing it other than doing so manually... this is done by clicking the "Reset Compiz settings" button now.
- Virtualbox is now supported with Compiz.
Finally, two new commands were introduced in Linux Mint 17.3:
- "wm-detect" to show information about which window/compositing managers are running.
- "wm-recovery" to recover and get back to the default window manager.
In preparation for Linux Mint 17.3, a lot of work went into MATE 1.12. Most of the papercut issues identified in Linux Mint 17.2 were fixed and some of the new features implemented in Cinnamon were ported to MATE.
The team focused on many little yet important issues which are key for a comfortable user experience.
MATE is now using the same "presence" interface as GNOME and Cinnamon. This means it now supports a very wide range of applications. You no longer need to move your mouse or to use the inhibition applet when watching a movie. MATE is now fully compatible with Totem, VLC and many other players. The screensaver won't start while they're playing a video.
Touchpad support was significantly improved:
- If your touchpad supports it, you can now tap or click with 2 or even 3 fingers to perform right and middle clicks.
- You can now also activate "natural scrolling" to reverse the direction of scrolling and make it feel more natural.
- And a new global option also lets you disable the touchpad (which is convenient if you never use it).
Multi-monitor support has been improved. Display settings now show output names and you're now able to define which of your monitors should be considered "primary".
Many multi-monitor related issues were also fixed, in particular to make sure applications and windows were launched on the active monitor (i.e. where you mouse pointer is located).
The power applet now displays model and vendor information so you can distinguish between multiple battery powered devices.
The MATE system monitor now detects Linux Mint more accurately and it's one of the first MATE components which was ported to GTK3 in Linux Mint 17.3.
Software repositories are very important. We use them all the time when installing new software or performing updates. They need to be fast and reliable. This was a major point of focus in the development of Linux Mint 17.3.
Software repositories are mirrored (i.e. duplicated on many servers) all over the world. The main goal of the Software Sources configuration tool is to make it easy to find the best available mirror for you; one that is:
- Reliable and fully up to date
- Fast and responsive
To find the fastest mirrors, the Software Sources tool now detects your location and starts its speed tests with mirrors near you.
The Software Sources tool tests mirrors near you, with better accuracy than before and can now detect mirrors which are not up to date.
Mirrors from your own country are tested first, then from neighbouring countries and finally from your sub-region and region of the world.
Say you live in the Netherlands, mirrors are tested in this order: Dutch mirrors first, then Belgian and German mirrors, Western European mirrors next, and then finally mirrors from all over Europe.
Speed tests are also much more accurate than before. They're performed one after another and on larger files (to get more precision while measuring speed).
Finally, the Software Sources tool is more reliable than before:
- Even if a mirror is working correctly, the tool is now able to detect if its content is not up to date.
- PPA (Personal Package Archives) are now tested for compatibility.
The Update Manager now also performs more checks than before.
It warns you if the mirror you're using is not up to date:
It prevents you from damaging the system if that mirror (or your local cache) is corrupted:
And it shows a little hint even when everything is fine if faster mirrors are available:
The local cache used to be refreshed every 30 minutes. It is now refreshed 10 minutes after you log in, and every 2 hours then after. Both settings are configurable.
The Driver Manager is more robust than before. It refreshes the cache before looking for drivers and reports update and installation errors if appropriate.
Drivers are now sorted by status and the Driver Manager now indicates if drivers are Open Source or not.
The Driver Manager now also loads much faster and detects drivers in the background.
When a Broadcom chipset is detected, along with the recommended Broadcom STA drivers, the Driver Manager now also lists B43 installers (note that these options do require an Ethernet connection).
HiDPI support was improved in the MDM display manager.
Many HiDPI related issues were fixed, in particular with HD TVs plugged over HDMI.
The way HiDPI support works in MDM was also redesigned. It used to double the pixel density on HiDPI displays and that sometimes resulted in a login screen that looked too big on some HiDPI monitors. It now works towards an ideal pixel density, so the scaling ratio isn't just 1x or 2x but an appropriate calculated value in between.
To improve the support for touchscreens and mobile devices, an on-screen keyboard was also added in the login screen. This keyboard is available for the default theme ("Mint-X") and it provides both common and special characters.
Xorg, Mesa and the Linux kernel were upgraded.
In many cases, this improves hardware support. Imacs for instance no longer need to use nomodeset, scrolling is now functional on some Asus touchpads, suspending is much faster on macbooks...etc.
Kernel 4.2.0 is also available in the repositories. However please be cautious with it if you are using proprietary drivers. At the moment, the following drivers are known not to work with it:
- fglrx (ATI/AMD drivers)
- ndiswrapper (Windows wireless drivers)
Support for these drivers with kernel 4.2.0 should improve before February 2016.
All the backgrounds from Linux Mint "Qiana", "Rebecca" and "Rafaela" are also present.
The welcome screen was redesigned slightly.
LibreOffice was upgraded to version 5.
The screen reader "Orca" is now installed by default.
Input Methods are now handled by mintlocale, which replaces im-config in the menu.
Inxi was upgraded and now supports multiple graphics cards.
When using an encrypted home directory, memory swap is no longer encrypted by default and hibernation works out of the box.
OpenVPN support is now installed by default.
Linux Mint 17.3 features MATE 1.12, MDM 2.0, a Linux kernel 3.19 and an Ubuntu 14.04 package base.
Linux Mint 17.3 will receive security updates until 2019.
Until 2016, future versions of Linux Mint will use the same package base as Linux Mint 17.3, making it trivial for people to upgrade.
Until 2016, the development team won't start working on a new base and will be fully focused on this one.